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U.S. Pacific Command has sent a 23-man Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team from the III Marine Expeditionary Force on Okinawa to the southern coast of Bangladesh after a powerful cyclone struck the region, according to a III MEF/Marine Corps Bases Japan press release.

At least 3,113 people were killed and more than 1,000 are still missing after Cyclone Sidr struck Thursday, said Lt. Col. Main Ullah Chowdhury, an army spokesman. But there were fears the toll could be much higher.

The Marines left Okinawa on Sunday at the request of the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The team will work with the embassy and relief agencies to determine how the U.S. military can best provide assistance in the area, including medical, transportation, engineering and communication support.

In addition, two U.S. Navy ships, the USS Essex and the USS Kearsarge, are being sent to the region to assist in relief efforts. Aboard the USS Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group is the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. The Essex is currently based at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan.

According to the State Department, the ships each carry 20 helicopters that could be used for evacuations or surveys and are expected to arrive in five to seven days.

Every year, storms batter Bangladesh, a country of 150 million, often killing large numbers of people. The most deadly recent storm was a tornado that leveled 80 villages in northern Bangladesh in 1996, killing 621 people.

In the village of Bainsamarta, Sheikh Mubarak, 40, sat among the ruins of his hut weeping for his 12-year-old daughter.

“As our house was washed away by walls of water, I grabbed my daughter and ran for shelter. The monster waves swept her away from me,” he said. “Allah should have taken me instead.”

Survivors said many of the deaths could have been prevented but people failed to heed warnings to move to higher ground.

“Nothing is going to happen. That was our first thought and we went to bed,” said Dhalan Mridha, a 45-year-old farm worker from the village of Galachipa.

“Just before midnight the winds came like hundreds of demons,” he said.

“Our small hut was swept away like a piece of paper, and we all ran for shelter.”

The Associated Press and Stars and Stripes reporter Cindy Fisher contributed to this report.

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